Monday, October 17, 2016

Journalists and Scholars

One of those little moments of synchronicity. Just when I had gotten annoyed at the difficulty of contacting Maggie Kuo and David Freeman about their articles in Science and the Huffington Post about the ESO study, Andrew Gelman published a post about how "some people are so easy to contact and some people aren’t".

Like Andrew, I was struck by how easy it was to get in touch with Nando Patat, the scientist who had done the study. His email was right there on the paper and he responded immediately and informatively. Trying to inform Kuo and Freeman about errors in their articles, by contrast, was much harder. In the case of Science, I had to write to the editors who have passed my mail on to Kuo, who still hasn't responded. In the case of HuffPo, I had to use a contact form, and I also haven't heard back from them.

Also like Andrew, I find it annoying that "contact information" for journalists these days mainly means a link to one or more social media profiles. Why not just provide an email address? This is actually something worth preserving in academia (and something that I think and ResearchGate might be threatening). Scholars should be easy to contact. Of course, they should only be of very limited interest.

That's the thing about science and scholarship. It's for specialists. And I can sort of follow Andrew's reasoning that writers and journalists don't have make to themselves accessible. They simply have too many readers. That's what's good about academics.

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